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Keyari Sleezer, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, is driven on and off the court, and her love for her family and teammates shines through her. She shares her thoughts on her season so far and her goals for the future:

Keyari  Sleezer

Q: How are you feeling about this season so far? Have you been able to meet your goals so far this season?

A: I think we started out rougher than any of us expected during preseason, but I think that we were able to learn from it and it has made us a lot better. We are on the right path to where we want to be. From not playing much last season, and now being able to play and help the team, has been going toward my goal. My goal is to start and give as much as I possibly can to the team, so I could always do more.

Q: Has this year been different than last year?

A: In the preseason we focused on culture, so we are a lot closer now as a family, especially off the court. We have been working toward how we transfer that culture onto the court.

Q: What are some changes you want to see as the season progresses?

A: I want to see us win a lot of games. I think one of the big things for us is making sure that we are all healthy and everyone focused on the same thing. That is our ultimate goal.

Q: What was the transition from high school to college like for you?

A: My freshman year of high school was pretty bad, so I was really nervous about the transition from high school to college. I expected the worst, so it ended up going way better than I thought it would. I also had to learn a lot more about basketball, rather than just being able to play.

Q: How has having a family of athletes influenced you?

A: Back home we are known as a basketball family because my dad played, which was really awesome.  I was also able to practice a lot with my brother as we were growing up, which helped me get better. My dad actually works in construction, so he built us a half-court basketball court for us to practice on. He also always worked out with me and was always at my games.

Q: Is your goal still to go to medical school?

A: I am technically a business administration major, but I am also pre-med and minoring in Spanish. I want to be a doctor and open my own practice one day.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: I am playing post this year, so my role has changed a lot. Now my role is to get rebounds, to not let the other team score in the paint, and to get easy buckets for my team. Going from a guard to a post, I am usually faster than the people who are guarding me, so I have to take advantage of those opportunities.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with the team? What are you looking forward to doing with the team?

A: Traveling is always fun. We have some fun stories on the bus. Our team is always singing. We listen to a lot of music and do a lot of karaoke. We have some people on our team who aren't the best singers, but they are the ones who always want to sing. It's really funny and it is a lot of fun! I think we are really young and we are looking to get even better. It is cool because we get to work with the coaches and grow together. I think we have even bigger goals for the seasons to come.

Q: If you could switch places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?

A: I think it would have to be my dad. He works really hard, so it would be a really hard day. I think it would be really cool because he is one of the people I really look up to. I know what he has gone through, but to actually live a day in his shoes would be eye-opening. I think it would make me appreciate him even more.

Women's Tennis Update: Christine Maddox

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With the spring semester having just begun and the spring tennis season about to get underway, senior Christine Maddox checks in again with another update on what's been happening with the Waves:


Christine  Maddox

I can't believe that I am saying this, but I just finished my last first practice day of my college tennis career. It has been a 3 1/2-year whirlwind, and to think that I am beginning my last season playing as a Wave is a lot to take in.


To recap this past fall 2016 semester, we gained two wonderful new additions to our squad, Ashley Lahey and Mayar Sherif Ahmed, who have consistently proven that they can bring it on the tennis court. One of our talented sophomores, Luisa Stefani, and my fellow senior, Jean Runglerdkriangkrai, reached the doubles finals of the prestigious All-American Collegiate tournament at the Riviera Country Club which qualified them, as well as Luisa for singles, into the National Indoor Championships in New York. I, along with my doubles partner Mayar, fell short in the quarterfinal round, but would get another chance in the regional tournament to follow.


Many of us competed in the Southwest Regional tournament in San Diego in October, and the end result was a resounding sweep for the Waves. Ashley was able to bring the singles title home for the Waves, and my doubles partner Mayar and I were able to take home the doubles title, which automatically qualified all three of us to go to the National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York, to compete even further along with Luisa and Jean. During National Indoors, our other brave sophomore Dzina Milovanovic was competing her heart out all by herself in the Jack Kramer Club Invitational and reached the semifinals!


National Indoors was a rough turn of events in which many of us were not happy with the way we played, however, it just taught us that success does not just appear out of nowhere without discipline, hard work and a toughness against adversity. I know that this experience will fuel me to push forward and take what I can away from my final season as a Wave.


As for the academic portion, this past fall was my hardest semester yet pertaining to classes and the time that they demanded from me. I took two of my hardest sports medicine major courses along with a couple of history classes, and the amount of stress that I felt did not compare to any of my past semester experiences, which I did not think could happen. However, this past semester taught me that perseverance and discipline does not only assist me on the tennis court but in the classroom as well, which has shown me that no goal is too large or grand for me to accomplish.


This then brings me to current times. With new rankings having emerged, Mayar and I are ranked #3 in doubles, which excites me even more with the prospects of what this final season could bring. Jean and Luisa are ranked #8 in doubles, which puts two of our doubles teams in the top 10! Luisa, Ashley and Mayar are all ranked in the top 25 in singles (8, 21, and 22) which also makes us a force to be reckoned with, especially with our team ranking clocking in at a solid #3!


This coming Thursday, five of us will be competing in the Freeman Memorial tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, including myself, in which I hope to kick off the spring season right in order to prepare for the approaching dual matches. Our first dual match is against UNLV in the ITA Kickoff Weekend that we will be hosting on the 28th of January, which will launch us into our spring season.


I will continue to work hard for my teammates and give Pepperdine all I have for my last season as a Wave, and because no goal is too grand, as I have learned in this past fall semester, I believe that our team can pull off the final win in May if we can keep on working hard with the passion, talent and heart that I know we all have.

Senior Erin Himes of the Pepperdine women's swimming team tells us about being a two-semester sport and looks back on her time at Pepperdine. Swim and dive have their season split in two, with one half being held during the fall semester, and the other portion during the spring semester. Everything is working toward the PCSC Championships from February 8-11.

Erin  Himes

Q: The swim and dive season is a split season. What is that like, knowing that you will be competing for a lot of the school year?

A: It is definitely a lot, especially managing school both semesters, and competing the whole time. But, it is good to have the fall to figure out where we are at as a team, and seeing what we need to work on going into the spring. In the spring, we really get to focus on swimming fast at conference. Everything in the fall is focusing on each individual meet, and the spring is completely focused on conference and getting ready for that meet.

Q: So you would say that the spring semester is a little more intense than the fall semester?

A: Absolutely. It is shorter, but the meet is so much more important than all the other meets. There are a lot less meets, in order for us to rest and prepare for the one big one at the end.

Q: Knowing that you have the second half of the season remaining, does the motivation to train during winter break remain the same as during the semester itself?

A: We are all definitely encouraged to get in the water a lot over break, because the second half of the season is so important. We all go home, and train with either a team or on our own. Then we come back a week early from break and have a really intense week of practice before anybody else is on campus to get back in shape for the spring semester.

Q: Will you personally be training by yourself or with a team? And is the team usually a club team that you swam with in high school?

A: I will be training with the club team I swam with in high school. A lot of the girls go back and train with the club team that they swam with over winter break.

Q: Looking back on your four years at Pepperdine, have the more memorable meets come during the fall or spring semester of the season?

A: I would say conference is always the most memorable, swimming-wise, because the energy at that meet is so electric and so much fun. Plus, everybody always swims so well, so it is a really encouraging time and a good note to go out on. Another meet that we all really love is the Cal Poly meet. It is always a really fun weekend. I would say that those meets are my most memorable in my career.

Q: What are your goals going into these last couple of meets?

A: Just to have fun and enjoy it. Swimming will end for me after college, so being able to enjoy my last meets as a competitive swimmer will mean the world to me. I also, of course, want to swim my best times in the events that I swim.

Q: What have these past four years here meant to you, both as an athlete and as a student?

A: I love Pepperdine so much. I have absolutely had the best four years of my life here. Especially being on the team. Coach Nick (Rodionoff) was the reason I came to Pepperdine, and he is my reason why I have loved my swimming career so much. And being on the team with all of these girls has been so fun and encouraging. I have really loved getting the chance to participate in a collegiate sport. Academically, I have had such a great four years. I have so many professors here who care about me and made a huge impact on my life.

Q: What are expectations like for the remainder of the season, and how do you think that the team will achieve those goals?

A: I think the expectations are pretty high. We had a great year last year, and we want to improve on that. We had a lot of really good freshmen come in both last year and this year, so having more people who can contribute both to a positive environment and also to be able to score higher is really great. Hopefully we will get to improve on our score in conference, and everybody will individually be able to get new best times and be proud of their season.

Kayla Blair, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, has learned a lot from her time playing the sport. She shares with us her hopes and goals for this season, and how what she has learned has helped her become a better player:

Kayla  Blair

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been a little rough. There have been a few games we should have won, but we have a lot of potential. We are starting to find the things we have to do to win, so I think it will get better.

Q: What goals did you set for yourself for this season? Have you been able to meet those?

A: This season I really wanted to be more aggressive on the court and not necessarily score more, but be more aggressive by getting rebounds and loose balls. I haven't met that goal yet, but I was starting to be more aggressive in practice today, so I feel like from this point on it will just get better.

Q: You had a really great first season last year. What was it like to be a freshman on the team?

A: It was a crazy ride. I didn't go in expecting to play a lot, so I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, and I think I did well with that. This year, I am using the things I learned last season toward this season.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: My role is to come to the games and be aggressive and get loose balls and rebounds and do the little things that people don't necessarily want to do. I don't have to score 50 points a night, but I need to do the little things that help us win.

Q: I saw that you scored 1,000 points during your high school career. What was that experience like?

A: It was pretty cool because not many people at my high school had done it before me. We were such a good team, so it felt good to do it with great people around me.

Q: You seem to have a family of athletes. How has that influenced you and your sport?

A: Growing up around athletes, you don't want to be the odd one out and not play a sport. In my family we have a lot of professional athletes, so I had people to look up to and see all the hard work they had to put in to get to where they are. I knew I had to do the same to even get a scholarship.

Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine?

A: At the time, the coaches that recruited me were some of the best people I had ever met in my life and even though we do not have all of the same coaches, they are still really great. And you can't beat the view or the weather. I always wanted to go to school in Southern California.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with the team?

A: It actually happened on our last trip back from New Mexico. We did the "Beats Challenge" where you put headphones on and blast the music, so you can't hear yourself and then sing at the top of your lungs, while everyone else listens. That was really fun on the way back.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of the rest of your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I am hoping to get a great group of friends. They say you find your best friends in college, and I really think that my teammates will be my best friends forever. Academically, I want to get a degree from a great school that will help me get the job I want.

Senior right-handed pitcher Chandler Blanchard speaks about the recently concluded Blue and Orange World Series and how it prepares the Pepperdine baseball team for the upcoming season. He also reflects on his time at Pepperdine:

Chandler  Blanchard

Q: How did the Blue and Orange World Series showcase the skills of the guys, and how did it help with the preparations for the season?

A: We got to see a lot of guys show off their stuff. It was pretty impressive. A lot of guys really stepped up and competed really well. It was awesome to watch, both from the hitting side of the game and from the pitching side.

Q: You were a captain this year. What exactly does the captain do?

A: The captain puts together a lineup and decides who is pitching for that specific game. You determine when pitchers need to go in and come out, and keep track of pitches. It is really like being a true manager. You get to see how the coaches think, and decide what matchups are going to be advantageous for your specific team. It is definitely fun to see the other side of the game than what you are used to.

Q: Is there a draft aspect to the series? How does it work?

A: There is a draft. This year was a little different to previous years. The captains only drafted the position players, and the coaches decided which pitchers were on each team. The coaches chose based on who they wanted to see match up against which hitters. It was a little different, but it was definitely interesting.

Q: Looking back on the three other Blue and Orange World Series you have been in, how did this one compare to the others?

A: There have been some really good series. I remember that my freshman year, the series was won on a walk-off. A couple years ago was a complete five-game sweep. The World Series is all about competition. They are about getting to compete after so many weeks of practicing. It is a chance to get away from practice and get to a game-like situation.

Q: How do you feel the series prepares you for the season?

A: I think that this series showed that our team has a lot of heart and a lot of drive to play. There were a couple of comeback wins in the series, which shows us that we also have a lot of fight in us, and that we won't give in to hard opponents. I think that we are pretty mentally tough, which helps a lot.

Q: Now that the fall is over, looking back on the fall practices that you have been in, how does this one stack up? And how have you progressed as a player throughout the off-seasons of college baseball?

A: It's crazy how fast the four years have flown by. I remember the first time in my freshman year, coming out to the field going through all the "hell week" stuff that we do. And my progression and the progression of my teammates that have been there and been through it is just awesome. It is so weird to think that we are the oldest of the bunch now, and we are taking the roles of people that we looked up to. Now we have guys that are looking to us to show them what to do, and how to do it. It is pretty cool to think of all the years that we have been through, and I am excited to see what the final year has in store.

Q: As we go into December and winter break, how are you going to prepare for the season to come?

A: I am going to stay on my throwing program and keep lifting. I am probably going to work with Evan Dunn when I am home in Las Vegas, because he is local and I will be able to throw with him. Just stay on all the routines that we engrain during the fall, and stay healthy.

Q: What can we expect from the Waves this year?

A: I think that we have a pretty good shot of going far. We have a lot of pitching depth. We have bats all over the team. One through nine is unbelievably solid, plus guys that can come off the bench and pinch-hit. I think that we are going to be good. We are really deep in all aspects of the game, and I think that is going to translate really well this season.

Women's Diving Q&A: Sydney Newman

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Sydney Newman, a senior women's diver, has earned all-conference honors each of her first three years during her Pepperdine career. She describes her experiences and what diving means to her, and she shares how she deals with the mental and physical challenges of the sport:

Sydney  Newman

Q: How did you get into diving?

A: I got into diving in high school. Growing up, I was always doing gymnastics. In elementary school, I was into trampoline and tumbling, and, at my gym, they had indoor diving practices there. I knew that I would do much more with diving than trampoline, so I switched over to diving in my sophomore year of high school.

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I knew that I wanted to go to a college in southern California. I was in contact with a few different coaches, and Pepperdine was too beautiful to say no to. I loved the coach here, the team and everything about this school. It was a pretty easy choice when it came down to at the end.

Q: What is it like to be coached by Nick Rodionoff, who is a renowned diving coach?

A: It's great. I honestly could not imagine having a different coach for the past four years. Having a coach that wants us to work further to achieve our full potential in all aspects of our lives really helps when you're a full-time student and also involved in many other obligations on campus. He's so great with understanding our struggles and how to balance everything. He is our number one fan in and outside the pool.

Q: What does it take to become a good diver?

A: It takes practice. It requires toughness both mentally and physically. In diving, it's a mental sport. So that's not something you can practice. If you practice and have skills, then you may be the best aerialist in the world. If you get a mental block, then it's not going to help that you are the best aerialist. I think it is critical to know what your potential is, and to work through those mental blocks. Know that you're good at what you do.

Q: As you mentioned, mental blocks are something divers have to overcome. What helps you overcome those?

A: Having the support of your teammates helps, because they can all relate to those mental blocks. Though you might not get over them completely, having that support can help to make you feel less stressed and easier to overcome. Having a coach like Nick definitely helps as well. He never gets mad at us, never punishes us. When we are struggling, he works with us to get through it. Keep persevering and don't get discouraged.

Q: You've earned all-conference honors in diving each of your three years. What made it possible?

A: I would say my whole team. We all work for the success of each other. Also my coach, who has been there in and outside for all of us, makes us feel like he's always there for us. I would go to him for life talks, because he is so wise. Also just finding the balance in everything helped. Knowing that I am stressed, but also recognizing that diving is what I am supposed to be doing right now. After I graduate, I most likely will not be going on a diving board regularly, so I recognize that I need to enjoy while it lasts.

Q: Your sister, Samantha, is also a diver on the team. What is having her as a teammate like?

A: I love it. We have a funny dynamic. If my teammate, who is not my sister, is doing something wrong, then I try to be supportive and caring. But if my sister were to goof off, then I'd go "Samantha! Stop!" I could not imagine these past two years without her. It's been the most amazing addition to the team. We always do everything together, and it's been so much fun.

Q: How do our swimmers and divers get along? Is it a close-knit community?

A: Our practices are different. Coming into a freshman year, the coach made one group message as a whole, and we live together. My roommate, who I have roomed with since freshman year, is a swimmer, and my best friends are also swimmers. I have been with them all four years, and we get to bond during the meet so we tend to be really close. The only difference is that we have different practices, but everything else we do together.

Q: How do you plan to end your Pepperdine career?

A: The big splash. I know that I've enjoyed diving the entire time I've been at Pepperdine, so I want to enjoy my last semester with a competitive mindset. I want to still put in the hard work, but I've recognized that there are more important things in life than getting first place. I don't want to get discouraged by how I perform, but want to be able to finish strong.

Men's Golf Q&A: Roy Cootes

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Roy Cootes is a sophomore on the men's golf team, and is one of the team's leading scorers. He had one of the best freshmen seasons in school history, and he has carried it over to his second season. He collected top-six finishes in the last three tournaments of the fall, and 11 of his 15 rounds were below-par. He plans to keep this impressive record going throughout the spring season, and he talks about how he plans to do so:
Roy  Cootes

Q: What did you do to prepare for this season?

A: I played about four or five tournaments over summer to get me ready for the season. I played against other college golfers around the nation, and I played pretty well enough to be confident coming into the season. Having the new freshmen coming in has pushed myself to get better. It's been fun to have a new group of people come in and form good team chemistry. 

Q: How do you perceive your play so far in the season, and how will you end this year?

A: This season, I could not have asked for a better record so far. For spring, if I could just keep doing the same thing, then it will be a good season.

Q: How has the Pepperdine golf program influenced you?

A: We have two great coaches, and they have helped me refine my craft much better. It's good to surround myself with a great group of people. The team chemistry is awesome. We have a great group. We all get along together, and we love to hang out with each other.

Q: You have a little more than two months between fall and spring. How do you or the team plan to maintain the momentum?

A: We will keep having practices and weights. Over Christmas break, we will each play a tournament, and have that lead into the spring. It will give us an idea of where we are, and what we need to work on to improve.

Q: What was your personal aspirations for this season, and do you think you have exceeded the level you expected to achieve so far?

A: I feel like I have exceeded my expectations. Going into the season, my plan was to not finish outside the top 20, and I definitely exceeded that. It's been fun. I love being here, and it makes everything better when you play much better than you expect yourself to do.

Q: What are your aspirations for the next two and a half years at Pepperdine?

A: To win a national championship as a team over the next two years. It would be awesome. This year, I hope we get to Nationals, and I think we are capable of achieving it. For me personally, to be an All-American in the years to come. I want to focus on being a good teammate and achieving many goals as a team.

Q: What motivates you to play really well?

A: The guys on the team, and everyone involved in the process, motivates me to push further, and push the team further as well. I think it gets us to where we are.

Q: What does Pepperdine golf mean to you?

A: It's heart. We have a lot of heart on the team. We always play for each other and not for ourselves. The bond gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. We always have each other's backs and we know that the team is there to support and encourage each other.

Women's Basketball Q&A: Sydney Bordonaro

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A redshirt freshman on the women's basketball team, Sydney Bordonaro has come back strong after an injury ended her first season at Pepperdine. She was the team's top scorer in the first two games of the season and is averaging 9.8 points per game through four games. She is excited to continue to show her potential on the court:

Sydney  Bordonaro

Q: Tell me little bit about your background in playing basketball.

A: I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I started playing basketball when I was 5 in a YMCA league. Ever since I started playing basketball, I didn't want to stop. We only lost about eight games total while I was in high school. Our high school was very successful.

Q: Your hometown is in Pennsylvania. What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I had a connection into Pepperdine. Coach Mallory, when she was the assistant coach here a couple years ago, was previously an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. I knew her from there, and that's where that connection started. So what brought me here was the coaching staff. I loved Coach Mallory, and I really, really loved Coach Ryan. I liked the fact that they wanted to turn the program around and I would be part of that transition. I wanted to be part of something where I felt like my contribution matters.

Q: In your first season, you played the first four games and had to sit out the rest. How did that make you feel?

A: It was awful. I've never had to sit out for that long a period of time before. So it was difficult for me to sit there and watch, but I've told everyone that my redshirt year was also the biggest blessing I've ever asked for. I've matured, not only as a player, but also as a person. There were many things that I felt like I needed to work on, and I was able to get better at them during my redshirt year. I feel like I've grown and matured. It was nice to get that year back, because I knew I wasn't quite doing what I was hoping to do.

Q: How was dealing with an injury? What helped you in recovering from the injury?

A: Karissa, who is our athletic trainer, helped me so much, and Adam, our strength and conditioning coach. I give them full credit for this. Also, my doctor, Dr. Knapp, also helped a lot. He does all the shoulder surgery for the Clippers, Kings and other sports teams. He is one of the best in the field, and he was very cautious with my shoulder. It was my second shoulder surgery, and the surgery itself has 98% success rate, so, in theory, it wasn't supposed to hurt again. My first surgery was with a famous orthopedic surgeon in Pittsburgh. That's why I need to be careful and take good care of my shoulder. I should be cautious that it could be coming back, but I think it's a lot stronger now.

Q: What motivates you to be the best you can be?

A: I love basketball more than anything on this earth. "Ball is life." As corny as it sounds, there is nothing I want to do more than to play basketball. It's not hard to be motivated, because my love for basketball is stronger than everything else. I know that I have very average athletic ability. I know that I need to work 10 times harder than them to even have a chance to compete against people with great athletic abilities. Some people may say that I am not supposed to be successful in what I do simply because I am not given what others are given, but I work hard to overcome that barrier.

Q: How does it feel to be back on the court?

A: It's amazing. Last year, I was in slight depression. Everyone knew that I was sad about not being able to play with my teammates. The fact that I am able to go out there with my teammates by my side reminds me to achieve greater things on the court. Sometimes when I feel tired and not excited to go to practice, I remind myself how it felt when I was sitting out. It feels amazing to contribute.

Q: How did you prepare for the season, as you were getting better?

A: The biggest thing for me was to not only get back to where I was as a basketball player when I got injured, but also to try and be better. It was a bit difficult, because I had a very small period of time to do that. I got cleared for contact in August, and we started the season in the beginning of October. I think I still have some areas of the game that I need to work on, but there are areas that I improved. With the injury, I was able to do some shooting, but I wasn't allowed to do as much dribbling or playing. It hurt me a little bit, but it provided me with some perspective that I can always work on something to improve my skills.

Q: You were our top scorer for the first two games. How do you feel about your performances?

A: I'm happy with it, but it doesn't matter about scoring. My teammates are setting me up, and creating shots for me. Everyone else is doing the dirty work. Barbara (Sitanggan) and Paige (Fecske) are doing a really great job of getting me the ball. I honestly have to give credit to them. I appreciate them so much that I'm excited to have more years to spend with them.

Q: How do you plan to maintain a high level of performance throughout the season?

A: I think I need to continue to work hard, and not get complacent. I need to find parts of my game every single day that I would like to excel at. I think I played decent, but I didn't play my best yet. I just have to watch film more often, and see how I perform. I need to come into the gym at night, and work on my skills. I want to make my weaknesses my strengths, and my strengths even stronger.

Men's Tennis Update: Guilherme Hadlich

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Senior Guilherme Hadlich, a four-year member of the Pepperdine men's tennis team and a standout in the classroom, is heading into his final season of college tennis. After that, it's on to graduation and starting a job. As he searches for that job, he wants to let employers know that student-athletes are capable of far more than what can be shown on a resume:

Guilherme  Hadlich

Over the past summer, I finally realized "real life" was about to start. For the first time, I had to think about getting a job. The problem is: I had no idea what to do and how to get there. Reality seemed to finally have kicked in, and I realized I spent the last 10 years of my life dedicating all my love, my time and my efforts to the sport of tennis. I realized I had been neglecting the next step in my life, and I hadn't prepared appropriately. I had been relying on all the people who told me that "I could be anything I wanted" and that "I was going to do great no matter what I choose to do." Looking back now, I just wish they all had at least told me what I would have had to do to "do great." For the first time in 10 years, I didn't know where to go next.

Once that yellow light turned on inside my head, I figured I should start moving. For a couple of weeks, visits to the Career Center, long phone calls with my parents and a tremendous amount of Google researches became a part of my routine. I learned that my first step was to write a resume. I thought, "Sweet, I'm a pretty cool guy and I did pretty well in tennis, I'm sure everyone will want to hire me." Hmm. No. With no previous work experience, all I was left with was my experience as a collegiate athlete at Pepperdine University -- which apparently was not enough for employers. I was getting so frustrated! It didn't seem fair to me that I had to limit the best three years of my life into four or five lines and a few action verbs. There is no way someone can read one-fourth of a page and fully understand what being a college athlete teaches you. In my opinion, it prepares you for life better than any other class, job or internship. Here's why:

1: You (really) learn how to work in teams and how to deal with different points of view. I've traveled a lot throughout my life because of tennis, so I was fortunate enough to meet people and make friends from everywhere in the world. I thought I was very good at understanding other people's perspectives and dealing with different cultures -- until I came to Pepperdine. When you have three Brazilians, one Argentinian, one Chilean, one Peruvian, one Canadian, three Americans, one half-Mexican and one Brit on the same team, let's just say you have some "differences of opinion." You either learn how to accept other perspectives or you won't last long. I had to learn that my values will not always work for everyone, and that people take different approaches to excellence.

2: Time management -- you learn the true meaning of a day having 24 hours. Wake up at 6 a.m., shower, make breakfast, drive to school. Find parking, tennis practice from 7-9, fitness from 9-10. Shower, convocation from 10-10:45, grab lunch to go, take shuttle to class. Class from 11-2, another tennis workout, stretch, meet with a group for a class. Get dinner with girlfriend, drive back home, study for test, read book for a quiz, go to bed. Repeat that the next day. 

3: You learn how to accept criticism and how to get better from it. When you spend 10 or 15 years playing an individual sport, you get used to doing things in your own way. You become certain that you know what is best for you. The problem is that in college, it is not about you. You get there and you have your "boss" -- a.k.a. your coach -- and captains telling you that you need to do things in a different way. At the beginning, there are weeks when you kind of just want to tell them to mind their own business and then go back to your room, curl into a ball and go to sleep. But as time goes by, you learn that they just want the best for you and that embracing their criticism will not only make you a better player, but a better person.

4: You learn that your actions have consequences and that they affect other people too. Last -- and most important -- you learn that you are not only representing yourself anymore. You represent your team, your coach, your athletic staff, other students on campus, faculty, alumni and ultimately your school. Therefore, you need to make decisions that are compatible with your new role. One bad decision could harm many other people, so you should always think twice. It is scary at first, but this change turns you into a more mature, self-controlled and disciplined person. It leaves you more prepared for the future, when you need to represent your family and your company.

There are other things I've learned in the past years, but I chose to highlight the ones that are more applicable to the workplace. Very often you see them as requirements for job positions. They are "soft skills," extremely difficult to teach in a classroom. While companies spend thousands of dollars trying to teach them to employees, student-athletes learn them every day while still working toward a degree. So, if you ever see yourself with a student-athlete resume in your hands, please don't overlook it. We go way beyond what is written there. And trust me when I say this: we are ready, and we know how to succeed.

Cross country season is over and it's time to get ready for track. Cori Persinger and Katie O'Malley check in again with another blog entry about what the teams are up to around the Thanksgiving holiday:

Cori  Persinger

After racing at NCAA Regionals, the cross country team has taken a break this past week, which will continue into this Thanksgiving holiday. Well, a break from running that is. While it is important to give our bodies a break, stopping physical activity altogether can create problems. Some people (including me) need to take a few days, or maybe a week, off from anything remotely related to physical training in order to recoup mentally, which involves, among other things, not getting out of bed until class at 10 a.m.

Sam Maness says, "It's rejuvenating to my body and my inner being. It's given me a chance to understand what it's like to be a normal college student, studying late and not having to wake up before 6 a.m."

Going into the week of Thanksgiving, the second week since the end of the season, many of us will begin training again. Some will run every day. Possibly every other day. Others get creative, participating in physical activity that doesn't involve running, called "cross training." This includes swimming, biking, ellipticals, hiking, surfing (just Pepperdine things) and everything in between. It's a good time to mix up the workout routine, which has perhaps become too regular and complacent after months of being in-season.

Grateful for a time of rest, this amazing team and the coming track season. Happy Thanksgiving!

-- Cori Persinger

During the past couple of weeks, the track team has been doing our testing. From a timed mile, to short sprints and an all-out 45 second run, it has been a physically strenuous past couple of weeks. Not to mention the continually increasing weights and intensity in the weight room. However, we continue to bring energy and enthusiasm, remembering what we can control. We are now entering into our SPP training, and even in the upcoming vacations, it is essential that we continue to work hard and bring the same intensity even when we are by ourselves.

Coach V has been particularly impressed with seniors Izzy Connell and Gabrielle Ellis as their speed is exactly where she wants it to be.

This past Saturday, after our morning practice, the team got together for "Teamsgiving." We made pancakes, eggs and bacon and spent good quality time together as a team. We shared the many blessings and things we feel thankful for here at Pepperdine, the team being toward the top of everyone's list. We also got to bring Coach Rad's dog, Honey, with us while he worked in his office! It was an overall good, hard practice, with a rewarding and quality time after. Now we anxiously await time to go home for the holidays, agreeing that we are all very excited to see our families.

-- Katie O'Malley

Women's Volleyball Update: Gaby Palmeri

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Heading into her final match as a Wave tonight, senior outside hitter Gaby Palmeri writes about all that she has gained by being a student-athlete on the Pepperdine women's volleyball team as well as a member of the University community:

Gaby  Palmeri

I have had a very unique college athletic experience. In my four years at Pepperdine, I have had three head coaches, and my class that started out with seven girls, is graduating three. Though throughout all the change that the indoor women's volleyball program has undergone while I have been a part of it, what has remained constant is the team's resilience. Regardless of external circumstances, we arrived at the gym, in the weight room, prepared to work and to improve. This is the environment I have loved being a part of the past four years.

This 'show up and do work' mindset that I first learned in athletics has allowed me to tackle challenges and take on more responsibilities in the classroom at Pepperdine and beyond. In addition to athletics during my time at Pepperdine, I have pursued two degrees, a B.A. in biology and political science, been a mentor at sophomore dorm and conducted original research in my area of interest, plant physiology and conversation. This year, I have been finishing my degrees, working as the student coordinator at Pepperdine's Center for Sustainability and Governmental Regulatory Affairs, and serving as president of the Green Team on campus.

The ability to manage stress and self, and other skills as these, will continue to serve me after Pepperdine. I am incredibly thankful that Pepperdine Athletics fosters the development of the entire person. I know the college experience I have had, along with the opportunities that I have been presented, are unique to Pepperdine.

As I look ahead to my final match at Firestone Fieldhouse, I am grateful that I am playing my last game of collegiate volleyball with and surrounded by people who truly care about me. I am overwhelmed by the support I have received from family, friends, coworkers, professors, current and former employers, athletics staff, classmates, coaches and teammates. This is ultimately what I will remember from my athletic experience, the fellowship that being a part of the Waves family has provided.

Barbara Sitanggan is a freshman on the Pepperdine women's basketball team who is beginning to learn the ropes of college basketball. A starter in each of the first three games, she shares how her transition has been going and what she is looking forward to most for this season:

Barbara  Sitanggan

Q: What have your first couple of games been like?

A: It has been really nerve-wracking, since I am a freshman, but all of my teammates have been really supportive. They have been telling me that it is just basketball, and since I have been playing the sport for so long, to just think about these games as any other game.

Q: How has the transition from high school basketball to college basketball been?

A: The speed of the game has been much quicker. All of these girls know what to do. In high school, there were always some players who were a little "iffy," but now everyone has a good knowledge of the game. I have slowly started to grasp it. I am hoping that by our conference games, I will get it down.

Q: You won a lot of basketball awards in high school. What was that like? How long have you played?

A: It was a good feeling. I know that I worked hard for it, so it was awesome to get recognized for all the work I was putting in. I have played for about twelve years. I started when I was about six.

Q: What is your favorite part about the team?

A: We have only traveled a few times, but riding on the bus together has been the most fun. We just get to talk and have fun. I am excited to travel even more and fly to different places with the team.

Q: What role do you want to play on the team this year? Do you think that will change or grow the next few years?

A: My coaches want me to be more of a floor general. I want to start fitting into that role by telling my teammates where they should be and giving them the right passes, like a true point guard would do. I think it will definitely grow.  Now that I have people to look up to like Paige (Fecske) and Sydney (Bordonaro), they will definitely help me with that process.

Q: Why did you choose to go to Pepperdine?

A: One of my best friends is here on the team and I also love the beach. The coaches are really great as well.

Q: What are you planning on studying here at Pepperdine?

A: Right now I am a liberal arts major, so I want to be a teacher for elementary students. My parents and I decided that since I love children, I should to find a way to teach them. That would be perfect.

Q: What has been your favorite part about being in college?

A: Being on my own has been really good. No one here can tell me to do my homework and other things like that. I like how I am growing and that I can stay out with my friends, which I couldn't do at home. I just love Pepperdine; I love the campus and the people here are so nice.

Q: What are you looking forward to most in the next four years?

A: I am looking forward to being closer with the coaches and going up to their offices and getting to know them more. I also am excited to get such a good education.

Q: What has your experience been like with your teammates?

A: At first I was really shy, but they have really helped me open up more and I love every single one of them.

Senior Cristian Bridley and the Pepperdine men's water polo team are preparing for this weekend's inaugural Golden Coast Conference Tournament. Bridley tells us about his experience as a Wave and the team's goals for this weekend:

Cristian  Bridley

Q: Your regular season is now over, and your team is preparing to go to the GCC Championships. How do you feel the regular season went?

A: I think it went pretty well. We really needed to come together as a team, and I think that the regular season helped us do just that. It helped us find ourselves.

Q: As a senior, how has your leadership role changed throughout your years here?

A: As you get older, you have new guys that come in and look up to you, so you definitely want to set a good example. But you also still want to show them how to have fun during practices and games. A big thing is making sure that they know that even though we all want to win, you need to have fun. In order to win, we need to have fun and come together as a team.

Q: What have the teams of seniors before you taught you about that kind of leadership?

A: They taught me to always try to have a positive attitude and outlook on everything. You are going to win and you are going to lose, but it is always about the process. They also made sure that we always took what we learned into the postseason and bringing it all to the most important three or four games of the season.

Q: As you reflect on your time at Pepperdine, what do you think has been the most important lesson you have learned from either the coaches or your teammates?

A: I'd say that the most important lesson has been "Finish everything that you start." For me, I stopped playing for a while, but ended up coming back to the team, so that was the biggest lesson that I learned. I want to be able to finish the things I start. I want to see everything through, and be in the best mindset for everything that I come across.

Q: You mentioned that you left the team, and then came back. What made you want to come back after your hiatus?

A: The camaraderie is probably the biggest reason that I came back. I love all of the guys on the team, and that friendship and family attitude was something that I felt that I was missing out on. And, water polo as a sport is something I love. I missed playing the sport because I love to compete, and I love to win. Combining those two elements, it felt as though there was a pretty substantial void in my life.

Q: As you prepare for the conference tournament, what, if anything, has changed in practices?

A: During practices, we are focusing a lot on specific plays, and our defense. We really know how to play as a team, but it is just putting it all together. We want to get the specifics down and bring something that the teams haven't already seen. We play all of these teams during the regular season, so they know how we play, and we know how they play, so we want to bring something that will surprise them a little bit.

Q: This is your first year in the GCC. What was the competition like compared to the MPSF?

A: The competition is mainly the same except for the big four teams: Stanford, UCLA, USC and Cal. I think that we have a very good chance of winning this conference because all of the teams are right within each other's skill level.

Q: What can we expect from the Waves at the conference tournament?

A: I hope that we play well and come together well as a team. We have looked really good as a team these past few games, and I think that we have a good chance to bring it home.

As the Pepperdine women's soccer team heads to the second round for the NCAA Tournament this weekend (the Waves face North Carolina State at Stanford on Friday), junior defender Jamie Van Horn reflects on last weekend's win over California via penalty kicks, as well as the season overall so far and her time on the team in general:
Jamie  Van Horn

Q: How did it feel getting the win at this past weekend's first-round NCAA Tournament game? 

A: It was a really awesome experience! Getting a win in the tournament has such a different feel than in conference. We have been working so hard as a team and we realize how blessed we are to have this opportunity so getting the result was icing on the cake. 

Q: What was going through your head during the game?

A: I had to keep reminding myself to treat it like any other game. The second you overthink a game like that there is really no going back. I just tried my best to connect my passes and stay positive internally. 

Q: What was the atmosphere like for the team after getting the win?

A: It's always a rush of emotions after a win in PK's. Everyone was so excited it was tough to even process what happened right away. We all just kept hugging and smiling. You could really feel the love throughout the team. 

Q: How are you feeling about the next game coming up on Friday?

A: I can't wait for the game this weekend! I think I speak for everyone when I say we are thrilled we still have another week of training and another game guaranteed to us. There are so many teams whose seasons are over and as a group we are making sure not to take any of these moments for granted. 

Q: What do you think has made the team so successful on defense this season?

A: I think our spring season really helped shaped us into more mentally and physically tough players. We have done a great job as a defense carrying that over into regular-season play. There is a strong unity among the back line and I think it gives us all a lot of confidence.

Q: What do you think makes women's soccer here a good program in general?

A: At Pepperdine we are so lucky to have a staff that does a great job recruiting girls that aren't just amazing soccer players but amazing people as well. It doesn't feel like work when you're going out there playing your favorite sport with your favorite people. 

Q: What led you to come to Pepperdine in general and also to play for the Pepperdine soccer team?

A: My choice to come to Pepperdine was a God thing for sure. The moment I stepped foot on this campus for a soccer camp my freshman year of high school I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I really put all my eggs in one basket and just prayed that Tim wanted me here as badly as I wanted to be here. 

Q: What do you enjoy about playing for these particular coaches?

A: A team is only successful if every single player is all in. This coaching staff has done an absolutely incredible job motivating everyone to be all in and that has been the difference maker for us this season. I love that these coaches care enough about us to help make us not just the best soccer players we can be, but also the best human beings we can be.

Q: How has the team dynamic been this year?

A: The team is so close this year. Everyone is really playing for the girl next to them and it's a beautiful thing to watch.

Megan House, a redshirt freshman on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, is excited for what is to come this season and hopes everyone can witness how hard they have been working. She tells us about being back on the court this season:

Megan  House

Q: Are you excited for this season? What are you looking forward to most?

A: I am really excited for this season. We definitely have a completely different team chemistry, which is really important. Personally, I redshirted last year, so I am excited to actually be able to play. I am looking forward to seeing what we can do this season and hopefully shocking everyone.

Q: How has the recovery been from your injury? How will that affect you this year?

A: The recovery has been really good. I was hurt last year and some this year, but I can play and am back on the court. I have been working really hard at rehab and taking care of it by staying off it when I am not practicing or working out. I don't see it causing any more problems this year. It feels strong.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has a long-term injury?

A: I would tell them to trust the process. It is really difficult to go from being able to run, jump and play a sport that you love to barely being able to walk. It is even more draining to try and get back to where you were before the injury. You lose so much of your conditioning and strength, but you have to believe that it is just a short downfall, and a very long process of recovery. You have to trust the process, and trust your trainers and coaches because they want the best for you. As long as you work at it and stay positive you will come out on the other side.

Q: What are your goals this season on and off the court?

A: As a team, we want to be in the top half of the WCC. We don't want to be the team on the schedule that people mark off as a win, we want to come out and fight. Off the court, we are looking forward to doing more community service. This summer we volunteered with the Boys and Girls Clubs and we have done some meals for the homeless. We are hoping to serve on a more consistent basis. We also want to maintain our team's average GPA because it was really good last year.

Q: How has basketball impacted your life?

A: For me, basketball has been the most consistent thing in my life. When everything else changes, basketball has always been there. Aside from the sport itself, my teammates have made a huge impact in my life. It is very rare to find a group who genuinely wants the best for you, knows you for who you are, and is always there to support you. It is easy for other friends to turn their back on you, but teammates have to stick with you for the greater good of the team. If you are having a bad day, they can't just brush you off. They have to help pick you back up. Whether it has been high school, travel ball, or now in college, my teammates have made the biggest impact on me. They truly are like a second family.

Q: Why did you decide to come to Pepperdine?

A: I liked Pepperdine because it is Christian, small, and it is not too far from my home. I like the slogan, "Compete with Purpose" a lot too. The coaching staff also made a huge impression on me because of how much they care about us as students and people.

Q: What has been your favorite part? With basketball, and your time here in general?

A: With basketball, traveling last year was definitely one of my favorite parts. We went to New York and Alaska, and I had never been to the East Coast before or seen snow, so that was definitely one of my favorite experiences. Also, being with the girls on this team all the time has been my favorite part. Apart from basketball, I really love Pepperdine's House Groups. I have been involved in those and I am trying to get the girls on the team to sign up for them as well.

Q: What is it like to be a part of the women's basketball team at Pepperdine?

A: It is a lot of work, but it is also incredibly rewarding. You always have a consistent group and are able to work hard with a great group of people. We literally put in blood, sweat and tears, but we also can be complete goofballs and laugh all the time. I have found my best friends who I get to spend a lot of time with. We work really, really hard, but have fun doing it.

Q: Have you noticed a difference in this year's team? If so, what has changed?

A: This year's team is a complete 180 from last year's. There is a different atmosphere, whether that's on the court or in the locker room. What's changed is we realized that how we do each season is on us. We can't keep blaming outside factors for our losses. At the end of the day we have to be united as one, so we have been able to put personal things aside, so that we are closer as a group. I hope that we can have more witnesses of the changes we are making, so make sure to tell your friends to come out and watch us play!

Men's Tennis Update: Scotland Garapedian

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Scotland Garapedian, a sophomore on the Pepperdine men's tennis team, shares the habits that prepares him and his teammates to be successful on the court:

Scotland  Garapedian

What does it mean to be part of the Pepperdine men's tennis team? Well ... I am going to answer that question with another question. What does it mean to be part of a team that prepares you for all of life's challenges?

As I am in my second year of being on the team, I can tell you now that I have grown as a tennis player. I mean, playing three hours of tennis each day and training extremely hard in the gym will inevitably make you a better tennis player. But more importantly than becoming a better tennis player, I have grown as a human being. Each lesson learned on the tennis court, relates to a life situation that can happen off the court.

When I was very young, my dad shared with me something I will never forget. He talked to me about something called "The Four Reliability Habits". They are: show up on time, do what you say, finish what you start, and say please and thank you.

As these habits may seem very simple, a lot of people do not do them. In fact, MOST people don't do them. So what is the point of me sharing these habits with you? These four habits are not only expressed each day at our practice, they are expressed through everything we do throughout the day and they will be crucial for our future and career path we decide to take.

Let's start with the first one: show up on time. Practice starts at 2:15 each day. If a player shows up one second late to practice, they will suffer the consequences. The habit of showing up on time to practice, relates to everything we are supposed to show up on time for. What happens five years from now when I have a job interview and I show up late? There is not a chance I would get the job. Personally, showing up on time for me is arriving five minutes early. If I make the habit of showing up five minutes early to practice, I will most likely carry that habit into everything I do. I will show up five minutes early to the place I need to be at a specific time. But the real question is, why would it be important for me to show up five minutes early to something? Showing up on time, or even better, five minutes early, can show that you care deeply about being there, that you are professional and you are ready to go. You are prepared.

The next habit: do what you say. Think about how many times we tell ourselves we are going to do something and we don't do it. On our team you can talk the talk, but you better be able to walk the walk. If someone makes the commitment that they are going to practice their serve for 30 minutes a day, they better back up what they said. It doesn't matter if it is 7 in the morning or 7 at night, they must do what they say. Again, this habit is relatable to everything we do in our day and our future career. Let's fast forward again. If you tell your boss that you will do something for them, and you don't do it, your reliability would be questioned. In this case, our coach, Marcelo Ferreira, is our boss. When you tell him you are going to do something, you better do what you say. Anyone can talk the talk, but those who walk the walk are the ones that fully understand the meaning of accomplishing something with purpose.

Our next habit: finish what you start. It is so easy to start something and not finish it. Think about all of those things you have started in your life and you end up never finishing them due to a lack of commitment or passion. I believe this habit is the most important of them all. This habit truly focuses on the big picture of how you want to pursue things in life. Meanwhile, I see this habit being magnified every week at our practice. We have a goal we want to reach as a team, and we know what it will take to get there. We know what it will take to start AND finish something. A good player would start a drill and would do the same drill until they get tired. A great player will start the drill and only stop it when they have reached perfection. The great players go the extra 1% to achieve perfection. That extra 1% of finishing what you started, can reveal the true character on a team. If you were the boss of a company, wouldn't you hire the person who is willing to go the extra 1% to achieve perfection? If you said yes, you better be able to walk the walk as well. You can only be a great leader and earn respect if you set the example first. 

The last habit: say please and thank you. I believe you can see the true character of someone by how much gratitude they have. Saying please and thank you is so easy, yet most people don't do it. Last week our coach gave us some new wrist bands, which to me was like a piece of gold. I was very thankful for them. But more than thanking my coach directly, I try to show my true gratitude by working hard each day on the court. Now, think about this scenario; you live in Malibu, you are a part of an elite tennis program, while at the same time getting an unbeatable education. Wow. What a life. When we are having a tough day at practice, our coach brings us together and does a great job reminding us what kind of life we have. We know that the life we have is something very special, and we need to be very thankful for what we have because many do not have the opportunity that we have. It is a great day to be a Wave everyday!

It is amazing how four simple habits can reveal what a team is truly made of. Do we show up on time? Do we actually do what we say? Do we finish what we start? Do we say please and thank you?

Our coach, our boss, our chief and our mentor for life -- Marcelo Ferreira -- does an unbelievable job helping us reach our full potential as a tennis player, while at the same time helping us reach our full potential of becoming a successful human being. That is a true coach: a coach that wants the best for you and prepares you for the challenges life will throw at you every step of the way. Years from now when we have a career, we can pay gratitude to our coach for helping us become the man we were capable of becoming.

Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a sophomore on the women's basketball team, shares her experience of being at Pepperdine so far and what she is hoping to get out of this season:

Yasmine  Robinson-Bacote

Q: What are your goals for this season? As a team and personally?

A: As a team, our goal is to compete at high level. If we do that, I think that puts us in a position to win a lot of games. Last year we really needed a push, but this year we are looking to stay consistent and compete at every level no matter the situation. Personally, I want to be the best teammate possible. I think that's the best thing I can offer because it correlates on and off the court. I want to be a good teammate, and become a better player every day I get the opportunity.

Q: What was the transition like coming from high school to Pepperdine?

A: It was probably one of the hardest transitions ever. Being from across the country and then learning how to deal with time management was hard. I used to have my mom helping me and directing me, so having to do everything I needed to whenever I wanted to do it was definitely a transition that I had to make. It took me a while to adjust, but now I'm used to it.

Q: You really came on strong toward the end of last season. What changed then and how are you going to maintain that this year?

A: I think my attitude changed toward the end. I really indulged myself and put two feet into trying to become a better player. Learning from the upperclassmen, pushing myself and trying to be the best player I can be helped me. I think maintaining it will be doing everything I did to obtain it. So I will keep working hard, and being a sponge and absorbing everything my coaches and teammates have to teach me.

Q: You have some really awesome shooting stats. Who or what has helped you get your shot down?

A: My dad was my first coach, so he taught me the mechanisms to shooting and how to stay consistent. It's a lot of form shooting and practicing your shot from different areas on the court. Practicing has had a big impact, and my dad taught me the proper way to shoot. It is important to always to have those basics down before learning anything else.

Q: What made you decide to go to Pepperdine?

A: The view, the beach, the coaching staff. My recruitment process at Pepperdine was really genuine compared to other schools. It didn't feel forced and it felt like they really wanted me here. You can't compete with the view, and being in Malibu, the weather is great. The academics here are also important to me, so I'm thinking of both now and the future. Knowing that the degree I will get has so much weight and will be honored after I graduate means a lot to me.

Q: You seem to be an impressive student-athlete, how do you keep up with both your grades and basketball?

A: Time management. Knowing that I have to sacrifice my social life. Knowing that both school and basketball are priorities, and putting that into perspective and putting those above other things I may want to do in the moment. I think making the sacrifices is worth it in the long run. Although right now I only see what I am missing out on, in the long run, I am going to be happy I made those decisions because it is going to reflect on my GPA and that's what matters right now to me.

Q: What do you bring to the team?

A: I think I bring a little bit of everything. I like to be free-spirited and funny in the locker room. At first I'm a little shy and observant, but once you get to know me, I am fun and easy to talk to. I want to be someone that is genuine and easy to talk to.

Q: What is your favorite game or memory from last year's season?

A: It has to be the WCC Tournament game against Pacific. They really showed us up when they were here, so going into Vegas with that mindset and having the defeat fuel us to go into that game. It was exciting from beginning to end. We really played as a team and everyone was happy for each other. That was definitely a highlight of last season.

Q: How have the coaches and professors at Pepperdine affected your experience so far?

A: In every way possible. Starting with the professors, they are very understanding about how we have a lot of time constraints due to basketball. They get it, and that's important because a lot of people don't understand how much we have to do outside the classroom. They talk to us as humans, and really care about us. The coaching staff care about us as people too. They not only want us to learn how to be good basketball players, but good women as well. There are a lot of life lessons that we learn from them. All together they are making us better people, and that is all you can really ask for.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?

A: I am excited for this season and I hope everyone gets to come out and see how hard we have been working in the offseason.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Amadi Udenyi

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Amadi Udenyi is a senior point guard on the Pepperdine men's basketball team who will soon move into the program's all-time top 10 list for assists. He talked with us about how much he looks forward to the season, coming back from injuries and being a leader:

Amadi  Udenyi

Q: How have you prepared for your final season at Pepperdine?

A: It is my final season, so I want to enjoy every moment I get with the team. I don't want to leave with any regrets. I want to have fun with it.

Q: What role do you play among your teammates?

A: A leader. I like to be a vocal leader on the court. When things are going wrong, I want to work with my teammates and make sure everybody stays together. I want us to work together to get things right. That is the biggest role I have as a leader.

Q: You have a big milestone ahead of you as you get closer to the career top 10 list for assists. What does this mean to you personally?

A: I want to thank my teammates. I would not have this without them making shots. I think this shows how much I appreciate my teammates. It also shows that Jeremy and I are putting in the work. Since freshman year, we both came in and made shots and had each other's back. We formed a great chemistry and got to know each other better.

Q: How will it feel to knock your head coach out of the top 10 list? (Marty Wilson is currently 10th)

A: I haven't really thought about that. I just know, when I come back, I can tell him, "Coach, I'm better at passing than you."

Q: What do you attribute this achievement to?

A: Being a great point guard means that you are playing for your teammates. You can't have a selfish mindset worrying about your own, but it's about the team's success. If you keep that in mind, then you'll be a great point guard.

Q: You had a serious Achilles injury as a sophomore, and you came back as a junior healthy and with a great performance. What helped you to heal so fast?

A: Staying in the training room as much as I could to get lots of treatment. I had a meniscus tear as a freshman that put me out about three and a half weeks, and from that I learned that when you get rehab, you are treating your entire body, not just where you are injured. So I want to stay as healthy as possible.

Q: Did you think you would be this good of a player immediately after the injury?  

A: I believe in optimism. I have that optimistic mindset. Injury is not a setback, but it makes you to come back with stronger body. I never doubted that.

Q: What is your goal of this season? How do you look to end your Pepperdine career?

A: First, to have fun. The goal for our team would be to win a WCC championship. This team will shock a lot of people, because we have a strong core group and our freshmen are fitting in really well. We are well prepared for the season. For my past seasons, we spent preseason as a building block, to get to know each other really well. This year, our team chemistry has been amazing from the start, and that really helps on the court.

Michelle Maemone, a sophomore defender, tells us about the emotions of winning a WCC championship, and what it will take to advance through the NCAA Tournament. The Waves host California on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Michelle  Maemone

Q: You just won Pepperdine's first WCC championship in five years. What kind of thoughts and emotions are running through your head?

A: Just a lot of pride in our team. I am so proud of each and every one of these girls. Everyone was so vital to the conference championship. I am also so excited to see how far this team goes. From where we were last year to where we are now is an amazing transformation, and I am really excited to see what we have left in us and what we have yet to accomplish.

Q: In the entire stretch of conference games, you only allowed two goals. What made your defense so successful during conference play?

A: Honestly, while our defense was strong, it was really the way we pressured as a unit throughout the field, so as a team that made our job as defenders that much easier. So I wouldn't say that it was just the back line, but it was everybody on the field stepping up and being smart with the way that they were playing. A huge part of that was our team's ability to defend back, with our outside wingers working back and our midfielders working throughout the field. Then, of course, we have Hannah back in goal, which is amazing. She made some absolutely incredible saves. Without her, we wouldn't have had as many shutouts as we did.

Q: Now that you have won the WCC, your first game is this Saturday at home. Hosting a postseason game is a pretty big deal. How proud of this team are you?

A: I am really proud of this team. And honestly, that doesn't do justice to the pride I have to be a part of this team. It is crazy to see how we have grown from last year and to see where we are now. We are in a completely different position mentally. Our mentality is so much stronger. And we have definitely gone through a lot to gain that mental strength, but it was all totally worth it. We look back on the spring practices, and they were really tough, but we would all say that we would do it all over again if it meant winning the WCC and going to the tournament.

Q: What makes this team, in particular, so special?

A: I think the camaraderie for sure. Everybody is so close to one another that we feel like best friends and sisters. Everybody has each other's backs. I think that translates onto the field in such an important way. Knowing that you have people who care about you playing alongside you, playing with your best friends, makes us want to fight that much harder, because of how much we care about each other.

Q: As you get ready for the postseason, what, if anything, is different about preparations?

Our coaches are really good about sticking to routine. They don't really want to change it up on us because we have had this kind of system of the way we do things throughout the preseason and into the season. They want to keep it the same as much as possible. We are preparing to play a different opponent, so we will work on specific things, like defending their style of play and how we will attack their defense.

Q: Obviously everybody wants to win every game and become national champions, but what are the steps to get there with this team?

Our theme right now is "One Shining Moment." For each chunk of the season, we have had a specific theme. I think for us, being fully invested in where we are right now is so important. Focusing on one game at a time and not looking ahead is key. However, we also realize that if we don't win, this is the last game that we play. So we go out there for our seniors. We go out there wanting to keep winning and hopefully make it to a national championship.

Q: Do you think that this team could be the team to go all the way for Pepperdine? Why?

Absolutely. Our coach always says that any team can beat us, but we can also beat any team. I think that if we play the way that we know we can play, we can beat any team in the nation. I think that all of us feel very confident in that. Our coaches have so much faith in us, and I think that pushes us to want to play our hearts out and represent Pepperdine as best we can.

Elijah Lee, a freshman point guard on the men's basketball team, ranked as one of the top 50 seniors in the state by last year. Transitioning to basketball at the collegiate level, however, is a whole new ball game for him. He talks about how the transition has been, what he's expecting for Friday's season opener, and what he's hoping for this season:
Elijah  Lee

Q: What is your background with basketball and what led you to Pepperdine?

A: I've been playing since I learned to walk. I came to Pepperdine because I genuinely felt that this was the place that I would have the best opportunity to grow spiritually, athletically and academically. I loved everything about it!

Q: How are you feeling about the first game coming up on Friday? What is your goal for the game?

A: Overall I'm just really excited for it. For our first game the focus right now is honestly just to win.

Q: What do you expect from yourself this year/season? Are there any goals you're setting or things you want to work on?

A: There will never not be something I want to work on. I'd love to tackle everything all at once, but realistically I have to focus on a small number of things at a time. This year I want to run the team with poise, limit turnovers, make my teammates better, get in the paint and knock down open shots. 

Q: What has it been like learning from the two senior point guards? 

A: It's honestly been a blessing having Jeremy and Amadi to play against in practice, and with them in games. They bring unique things to the table, and share their wisdom with me. Neither of them care to let up in practice. It reminds me of my older brothers when we were much younger. They wouldn't take it easy on me because they knew it would make me better. 

Q: What have you taken away most from the seniors and older teammates?

A: They're teaching me patience. I can't allow the other team to speed me up.

Q: Has it been an easy or difficult transition for you with your first year here on the team, and who or what has been helpful to you in this transition?

A: It hasn't been extremely difficult, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. My family, my teammates, my coaches and myself have been helpful. Although it's extremely hard for me to be away from my loved ones, they do a great job of keeping in touch, whether it's a text saying that they love me and are proud of me, or a call to update me on what's going on at the house. My teammates have become like brothers to me, so my relationship with them makes it a lot easier on me. My coaches do a great job of treating us with respect, and showing that they care about us as people and not just players. And lastly, I say myself because I realized that it's essential to find peace within myself, and the decision that I made in coming here.

Q: What is it like being on a team with a lot of freshmen? 

A: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Due to the lack of experience on the collegiate level, practices are detailed, and the terminology, plays, etc., must be continuously repeated. We are really dialed in, and I think I can speak for all of the freshmen when I say that we want to learn as much as we can as fast as we can so that we can make life on our coaches a little easier, and enable them to trust us in the game.

Q: What do you like most about being on a young team?

A: The future. Seeing the damage that we can do at our young age makes me excited about what we'll be able to accomplish in the future. Also, building a bond with a group of guys early on, and having that bond sustain throughout a potential four years is an exciting thought.

Q: How has the team experience been for you so far - what do you like about your teammates?

A: As I mentioned earlier, we are all like brothers. Having a good off-the-court relationship makes playing with each other on the court 10 times more exciting. The chemistry is great, and selfishness isn't a factor. We all just want to win ... whatever that means we have to do. I love everyone's unique personalities. Those are my guys.

Nick Heath has accomplished a lot this past year -- breaking his own cross country school record in the 8K earlier this season in Sacramento, finishing 18th at the recent WCC Championships (best by a Pepperdine men's runner since 2007 and a 21-spot improvement over his freshman year), as well as setting three track records in the spring as a freshman. He reflects on these experiences and talks about what it means for him going forward, including this Friday's NCAA West Regional:
Nick  Heath

Q: You've accomplished a lot in your time so far at Pepperdine. Is that a lot for you to take in? Is there any specific achievement you've had in particular that really stood out to you?

A: Yes, it really has been a lot to take in. I feel very honored to run for Pepperdine and I don't take any of my accomplishments for granted. I'd say that my favorite achievement so far was my last 8K in Sacramento, which was the best race I've ever run. It also really came as a surprise to me because I was not expecting to improve so much over last year!

Q: How does it feel to be breaking all these records and improving so dramatically since your freshman year? Does it put any pressure on you going forward or motivate you?

A: I would not say that it has put much pressure on me at all. Instead, I think that my successes so far have encouraged me to set big goals for myself down the road and have helped me to rethink how I view myself as an athlete. My experience at Pepperdine has motivated me to keep training hard because I now realize how much potential I have to race well against some of the best teams, especially over the next two years, as long as I stay determined.

Q: What do you think has helped you do so well over this time?

A: I think the key to my improvement over my whole running career has simply been uninterrupted training. Since I began cross country in high school, I've been running year round, increasing my mileage from month to month and forcing my workout times down from season to season. Consistent training and post-workout recovery has helped me to avoid developing any major injuries over the last four years, which has been crucial.

Q: Did you think coming into Pepperdine that you'd do this well so early on? 

A: Before I came to Pepperdine, I never would have thought that I would be so competitive at a Division I level in cross country. I used to be amazed that it was even possible for some of these elite college athletes to run so fast for five miles. But once I got to Pepperdine, I was surprised to find that I had improved enough over the last several years to do very well in my races early on!

Q: What is your next goal or set of goals you're setting for yourself going forward?

A: My goal for next cross country season, like always, is to get faster and avoid getting hurt. I'd love to place in the top 10 in the West Coast Conference Championships and run around 23:30 in the 8K. Both these goals will be pretty challenging, but are definitely within reach.

Q: You're heading back to Sacramento on Friday for the NCAA West Regional meet. Are you hoping to make a run for the school record there too? What are you hoping for in that race?

A: I'm very excited for Regionals in Sacramento this year. Sacramento is one of my favorite courses and it should be a great experience to race against some of the best runners in the nation. It is a 10K this time around, so I'm hoping to beat my 10K record from last track season and place in the top 50.

Q: What has been your favorite memory so far during your time on the team?

A: My favorite experience on the team so far was actually our trip to West Regionals last year in Seattle. I had never been to Washington before and it was fun to fly there with my teammates and check it out. More memorably though, it was the biggest race I had ever been in and it had been raining for the last several days. Not only was it still pouring rain during our race, but the entire course was flooded with thick mud. Everyone in the race got so splattered with mud that by the time they reached the finish, you could hardly tell what school's jersey they were wearing. It was very challenging in the moment, but once I was done, I began to realize how fun that race was and how incredible the experience was overall. However, I'm still hoping for a little better weather at Regionals this time around.

Q: Is your experience running and being on the team any different at all now that you're a sophomore compared to freshman year?

A: I think that I've gained a lot more confidence over the last year. It was challenging coming to a new school, joining a new team and being expected to compete at a much higher level, but with the help of my coach and teammates and with a few solid races under my belt, I've become much more comfortable on the start line and I can honestly say that I love what I do.

It's not easy to adjust to a brand-new school and team as an incoming freshman -- let alone to do those things successfully enough to break a school record within your first three months. Despite these odds, freshman women's volleyball player Jasmine Gross set the all-time Pepperdine record for most blocks in a single match, leading to her first career West Coast Conference Player of the Week nod. Gross has provided us with some insights into her time at Pepperdine, and how she perceives her role and accomplishments on the team:

Jasmine  Gross

Q: What was the transition like for you, coming to play at Pepperdine versus playing in high school?

A: It has been a big jump playing in high school to playing in college. The girls in college are much stronger and more developed than they were in high school. The level of play is faster which took time to get used to.

Q: How do you accomplish the lifestyle balance required to be a student-athlete at Pepperdine?

A: I have a lot of support when keeping up with my academics. I meet with my academic advisor once a week to make sure everything is under control. Traveling for volleyball and keeping up with school is difficult, but is manageable with the support system I have around me.

Q: What were you thinking as your number of blocks against Pacific kept going up?

A: To be honest, I didn't know how many blocks I had throughout that match. I knew that my teammates were making some great plays setting up the block for me and my job was to get there.

Q: Did you know you were close to breaking a school record?

A: To be honest I had no idea I was going to break a school record and I didn't actually know there was a school record to break.

Q: How did it feel to earn Pepperdine's first WCC's Player of the Week honor of the season?

A: I feel very humbled to be able to represent the school I love and my teammates who work so hard.

Q: How is it to have such a big role as a freshman?

A: I think it has brought out the best in me. Having to step up to the plate and to always be on my A game and compete my hardest has pushed me and made me better.

Q: Who inspires you to compete at such a high level?

A: My parents inspire me every day. They both work so hard and competed at the highest level themselves in tennis. They have pushed me to be my best in everything that I do along with giving me the freedom to pursue my dreams, which has helped me become a hard worker.

Q: How will all this record-hype translate in the matches to come? Will it at all?

A: It fuels me to become better. I still have so much to work and improve upon. It is awesome that my hard work has translated into some success but I'm not even close to where I want to be.

Q: What has been your favorite match so far? Why?

A: My favorite match was against Pacific, for sure. Our team came together like never before and pulled out the win, which was a huge moment for us.

Q: What has been your favorite moment off the court this season so far?

A: My favorite time off the court was the trip to Hawaii when we went to the beach and got to explore. That was by far the best trip this year.

Q: Do you have any pregame rituals or traditions that you do that you'd like to share?

A: I normally listen to music on my headphones as well as visualizing the match. I do quick meditations before and in-between games.

Rachael Collins, a senior midfielder for the women's soccer team, reflects on her four years as a student-athlete at Pepperdine and the legacy that this senior class will leave. The Waves round out their 2016 regular season at Pacific on Saturday with a chance to lock up a WCC championship for the first time in five years.

Rachael  Collins

Q: You are about to play your last regular-season game as a Pepperdine Wave. What kinds of emotions are running through your head?

A: I am really excited! We have a huge opportunity ahead of us that we haven't had all my years here at Pepperdine. It is definitely going to be a bittersweet moment, but I don't think that it is going to be the last game, so I am so excited for this team and what we are capable of doing and what opportunities that we have been given.

Q: Have your preparations this week been any different because of what is at stake?

A: Not at all. You want to keep it the same and you don't want to hype a game up just because of what is at stake. I think we did hype the LMU game up a little too much. This week, we have kept all our preparations normal and tried to keep it consistent to what we have been doing all year long.

Q: Even though you are trying to keep it consistent, is the prospect of a championship still on your mind?

A: Yes, but it is still just another game. Obviously, there is a lot to play for, you can't write that off, but it is another soccer game. We have been playing this game for so long, so I think that we as a team are ready.

Q: What would it mean to bring the WCC championship back to Malibu for the first time in five years?

A: It would be huge. It would be such an accomplishment, especially with where we have been the past three years that I have been here. To bring it back here would be incredible. We have a military theme this year, and this game is being called Operation: Bring It Home, so to bring the trophy home would be such a big deal for this team, and such a big deal for this program, and for the university as well.

Q: Has this season been different than previous seasons solely based on you being a senior?

A: I guess maybe a little bit. We as seniors have really felt like we want to give it our all this year. Not that we haven't given it our all the other years, but this year especially. This is it for a lot of us. It is coming to an end so we have everything to play for and everything to work for, but with nothing to lose. I think that in the back of your mind, you have the mindset of, "This is it, lay it all out there no matter what."

Q: What has your experience as a Pepperdine student-athlete meant to you?

A: This sounds cliche, but it has meant the world. I have learned and grown more as an individual, and more as a person than I think I would have anywhere else, as well as if I had not been a student-athlete. It's given me an identity; it's given me so much character. I will take life lessons from my four years here, and without a doubt will use them for the rest of my life.

Q: You mentioned that it has given you an identity. What has that identity become?

A: I think that the identity of a student-athlete is that you are a leader worthy of being followed. You have been able to do something that over half of the population will never be able to do. It is the knowledge that you can go above and beyond and raise the bar in anything that you take on from here on out.

Q: What has been your best memory from playing soccer here at Pepperdine?

A: There are really too many, but a couple that stick out are the USC and North Carolina games my sophomore year. The North Carolina game because that program is such a powerhouse, that as a little girl, you grow up admiring that team. They used to be the only school with a really good women's soccer program, which now is not the case of course, but to play them and beat them on our home field was just so much fun. And the USC game because it was so cool to have half of the school down at the field, with all of the other athletic programs there was incredible. To see them storm the field when we won the game in PKs was just incredible. It can never be taken away from us. I will never forget the unity that we as a team and the university had during those games.

Q: What kind of legacy does your senior class hope to leave? And do you think that you have succeeded in leaving that legacy?

A: I hope that our legacy is that this program will always be different from other programs. Different in the amount that we work, and the amount of team unity that we have. I have never seen, in all my years here, a more unified class than our senior class, and I hope that continues. We have obviously had our ups and downs, but I hope that our legacy is sticking together, no matter what you are going through. I hope that we raised the bar. And whether that is winning or not winning a WCC title, that we raised the standard to what team unity looks like and what hard work looks like.

Chris Reyes is a newcomer on the men's basketball team - but it will be his first and only year with the team. After graduating from Utah, he came to Pepperdine to pursue a master's degree in learning technologies and utilized the NCAA's graduate transfer rule to be able to join the team and play during his first year here. He reflects on his time at Pepperdine and being on the team so far, and how his unique situation is shaping his experience:

Chris  Reyes

Q: What led you to come here to Pepperdine as opposed to somewhere else?

A:  I chose to come to Pepperdine because it is so well known around the country for its academics and its location. I also wanted to be closer to my family.

Q: Is it different playing here at all compared to Utah? If it is, how so?

A: Right now it is hard to say there's a difference between the two schools because I haven't had the chance to play a game here in Malibu. But there were some stories that I heard from some of my teammates that said Firestone gets pretty loud. And just by looking at the gym you can see that it can make for a great place to play.

Q: Do you think you bring a different perspective to the team being a graduate student and having transferred in?

A: I do think I bring a different perspective to the team being a graduate student. I feel that being a part of a couple of great teams and playing with some great players, that I bring some experience to this team being that we are a young team. 

Q: What are you looking forward to most this season?

A: I'm really looking forward to conference play. Based off what I've been told about the conference is it gets pretty crazy. And coming from a larger school, that's exactly what a player wants to hear.

Q: What's your background with basketball? 

A: Well I started off my college career at Saint Mary's College of California where I redshirted and had the chance to play with a really good point guard -- Matthew Dellavedova -- and also had the chance to travel with the team to the NCAA Tournament. After spending a year at Saint Mary's I spent a year at Citrus College. From there I was recruited to play at the University of Utah. In my first year I was a part of the starting lineup of a great team. We made it to the NCAA Tournament as a fifth seed and made it to the Sweet 16 where we lost to Duke. My second year at Utah I became more of a role player on yet another great team, finishing second in the Pac-12 standings and making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Q: How is graduate school going, and how is it balancing being on the team and being in graduate school?

A: Balancing grad school and being on the team hasn't been too bad. I've been juggling a crazy academic schedule and athletics for the last eight years of my life. And coming in I understood that this is no longer undergrad and things are going to be a little more difficult. But so far I've really enjoyed both sides and am grateful to be here.